EDITORIAL: Cushion poor families from Covid-19 impact

Sunday October 25 2020

A well-wisher delivers food aid to a vulnerable household. The government needs to do more to expand the existing social protection programmes. PHOTO | FILE


Beyond stress testing the country's health system, the Covid-19 pandemic is now testing the government's level of preparedness to cushion vulnerable families who been hard hit by the current financial crisis linked to the slowdown in the economic activities.

While it is nobody’s fault that the pandemic struck, the government has full responsibility of ensuring recovery and supporting the most vulnerable to be back on their feet.

Those in need of urgent help are casual labourers who continue to live from hand to mouth with their income largely dependent on securing a daily’s work at a construction site or cleaning an office.

However, with the current economic slowdown, these jobs are not guaranteed. Many huge government construction projects remain suspended and casual jobs are becoming harder to find.

Covid-19 lockdowns across the world also adversely affected supply chains, including disrupting importation of agro inputs which has made access expensive for farmers.

The situation has been made worse by climate change that has drastically altered the weather patterns with many farmers anticipating losses.


This week, we saw public outcry over plans to increase public transport charges signalling the underlying economic pressures as many families struggle to meet their basic needs.

The government needs to do more to expand the existing social protection programmes but perhaps more importantly increase public spending and investment to further stimulate the economy by creating jobs and economic opportunities that can reduce pressure on households.

In addition, the government has to prioritise promoting farmers as many vulnerable Rwandans continue to depend on the agriculture sector.

Prices of all agricultural inputs imported from abroad have skyrocketed, many farmers can not afford them.

In addition, farmers are now forced to use irrigation yet pump prices have also doubled.

Perhaps more importantly, the government has to pay  its bills, there are many members of the private sector that are struggling to find cash flow yet government agencies including Rwanda Revenue Authority owes them money in form returns while other agencies have not cleared suppliers.

Recently, the debate around the government's social stratification programme Ubudehe also courted controversy as many expressed concern over unfairness in the process of categorization.

Nepotism and corruption have also been cited in Ubudehe categorisations, where the people who are well have ended up getting benefits that rightfully belong to the poor.

Therefore, the government must act urgently to safeguard recent gains in addressing income inequalities as it is facing the real risk of many Rwandans sliding back into poverty.